The Anonymous Widower

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Surrey Live.

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are The Class 387 Trains For Heathrow Express Ready To Roll?

These pictures show the refurbished Class 387 trains, that will be used by Heathrow Express.

They will replace Class 332 trains.

Are they ready to roll? I hope they are not going to cover. what I think is an attractive livery, with hideous advertising!

 

June 13, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

ETCS Tested Successfully On Heathrow Express Class 387s

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

Once the Class 387 trains can use ETCS on Heathrow Express between Paddington and Heathrow, this must surely allow them to work more intensively with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which are also fitted with the same ETCS signalling.

 

April 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

When Crossrail Opens To Reading, Will Great Western Railway Have Too Many Class 387 Trains?

Currently, Great Western Railway has a fleet of 45 Class 387 trains

Twelve trains are currently being converted to Heathrow Express duties.

But if Crossrail takes over services between London and Reading, then their main use wuill have disappeared.

As Reading to Oxford is not fully-electrified, they can’t be used on this route, but both Class 802 and Class 769 trains can.

There may be used for trains on routes like.

  • Reading and Didcot Parkway
  • Reading and Newbury

But there won’t be opportunities to use thirty-three trains.

April 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Porterbrook Awards £11m Contract To Modify New Digital Heathrow Express Fleet

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Porterbrook has unveiled a £11m contract with Bombardier to modify 12 Class 387 trains in preparation for their use on the Heathrow Express rail link.

The 12 specially converted ‘Electrostar’ trains currently operate on London commuter services for GWR but will now form a dedicated Heathrow Express fleet of electric multiple-units.

As other Class 387 trains are used on Gatwick Express, I’m sure that the trains will end up as some of the best airport expresses in the world.

But I feel that this is the most significant paragraph in the article.

The deal will also see the company fit digital signalling equipment, called ETCS, to the Class 387s – the first-time digital signalling will have been fitted on an existing fleet of electric passenger trains and will result in ‘type approval’ from the ORR which will enable ETCS to be fitted on all Electrostar fleets.

Fitting ETCS to the Heathrow Express trains will have several benefits.

More Trains Between Paddington And Reading

With the refurbishment of the Class 387 trains for the Heathrow Express, there will only be three types of trains between Paddington and Reading stations.

  • Class 387 trains
  • Class 800/801/802 trains
  • Class 345 trains

Within a few years, all of these trains will be able to use ETCS and the benefits will be more trains between Paddington and Reading stations.

The trains would probably be a few minutes faster too!

All Electrostars Will Be Able To Be Updated With Digital Signalling

If the digital signalling works for the Class 387 trains, it would appear that it could be fitted to all the other Electrostars.

This could be very significant, as several busy lines have a high proportion of Electrostars.

These are my thoughts on some lines.

Brighton Main Line

The trains working the Brighton Main Line include.

  • Gatwick Express’s Class 387 trains.
  • Thameslink’s Class 700 trains, which are already using ETCS.
  • Southern’s Electrostars.

Could we see digital signalling increase the capacity of this line.

East London Line

The East London Line is an all-Electrostar line and in the next few years, with the coming of Crossrail, it will probably need more services.

I suspect it will be using digital signalling and ETCS in a few years time.

North And West London Lines

If the East London Line were to be successfully signalled to bring capacity benefits, I could see the North London and West London Lines following suit.

The Class 710 trains, that will be boosting passenger capacity are Aventras and will be compatible with digital signalling. The freight locomotives are also being upgraded to digital signalling.

c2c

In a few years time, c2c will be using only Electrostars and Aventras! So why not use digital signalling?

As more new trains arrive with digital signalling, more lines will be converted to digital signalling and ETCS.

Conclusion

The updating of twelve Class 387 trains for Heathrow Express is a big step in the creation of a digital railway.

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Massive Taxi Queues At Paddington

I took this picture at Paddington in the late morning.

There were masses of passengers with heavy cases queuing for the taxis.

I suspect all had been conned into coming into London on the overpriced Heathrow Express.

Roll on, Crossrail!

October 2, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 6 Comments

Ticketing On Heathrow Southern Railway

This article on City AM is entitled New Elizabeth Line Services Are Coming To Heathrow’s Terminal 5 After Airport Strikes Deal With The Government and TfL. It contains this paragraph.

Heathrow has also announced that it is introducing Oyster and contactless payments for all rail services going into the airport. From May 2018, new ticket readers will be installed at Heathrow, so anyone using Heathrow Express and TfL Rail will be able to use an Oyster or contactless.

When I passed through Heathrow a couple of weeks ago, there was evidence of new ticket gates being installed.

Heathrow Southern Railway’s Proposed Services

Heathrow Southern Railway are proposing four services to the West of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

  • Heathrow Express from Terminal 5 to Woking, Guildford and Basingstoke, with an additional stop at Farnborough Main.
  • Crossrail from Terminal 5 to Staines
  • A service from Terminal 5 to Waterloo with stops at Staines, Clapham Junction and possibly Ashford, Felham, Twickenham, Richmond and Vauxhall.
  • A service from Terminal 5 to Weybridge with stops at Egham, Virginia Water, Chertsey and Addlestone.

Some of the stations like those between Feltham and Waterloo already accept contactless ticking, but surely all of them must if Heathrow Southern Railway is built, as you’ll be able to use contactless ticketing at Heathrow, but not at say Woking or Basingstoke.

Onward From Basingstoke, Guildford And Woking

A proportion of travellers from places like Bournemouth, Exeter, Portsmouth, Salisbury and Southampton will use Heathrow Southern Railway to get to the airport, with an appropriate change at Basingstoke, Guidford or Woking.

Will these travellers want to use contactless ticketing?

Conclusion

There will be a lot of discussions about ticketing on the Heathrow Southern Railway.

These ticketing issues, help to make it very understandable, why MTR, a partner in South Western Railway, want to join the Heathrow Southern Railway, as I wrote about in MTR Vying To Join Heathrow Southern Rail Bid.

Travellers want the ticketing system with the least hassle and as London is proving, contactless ticketing with bank cards works well!

 

 

 

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

GWR Announces Plans To Replace Class 332s As It Takes Over Heathrow Express Service

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Global Rail News.

In some ways, I was surprised that Heathrow Airport are handing over the running of Heathrow Express to Great Western Railway (GWR).

But.

  • It seems, that the main problem, in that HS2 want their depot for construction of their new line.
  • GWR will use twelve Class 387 trains to run the service as opposed to the the current fourteen Class 332 trains.
  • The new trains will be updated with First Class, high speed wi-fi and more luggage space.
  • The deal seems to run to 2028.

I do think, that the main reason could be, that this gives FirstGroup or MTR Corporation a say in all the railways, serving or going near Heathrow Airport.

  • GWR is owned by FirstGroup.
  • Crossrail is operated by MTR on begalf of Transport for London.
  • South Western Railway is a joint venture between FirstGroup and MTR.

The operation of Heathrow Express by GWR completes the set.

My post; MTR Vying To Join Heathrow Southern Rail Bid, could link MTR to the proposed Heathrow Southern Railway, who are hoping to create a link into Heathrow Airport from the South.

One of the plans of Heathrow Southern Railway is to create a new Basingstoke/Guildford – Woking – Heathrow – Paddington service.

  • This would have a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) between Paddington and  both Basingstoke and Guildford.
  • This would mean there would be a four tph Frequency between Paddington and Woking via Heathrow Terminal 5, Heathrow Terminal 2/3 and Old Oak Common.
  • Creating the new service by extending Heathrow Express, means that the new service can take-over the paths used  by  Heathrow Express, to and from Paddington.
  • It is also worth noting that the Class 387 trains, that GWR are proposing to use on Heathrow Express are dual-voltage and can run on tracks with third-rail electrification.

Heathrow Express will become a double-ended service,  in much the same way that Gatwick Express takes passengers from both London and Brighton to the airport.

GWR taking over Heathrow Express must make the operation of trains to and from Heathrow Airport easier.

Why Change The Trains?

I think there are various reasons.

Operation And Maintenance

Obviously, if GWR uses only Class 387 trains on their shorter electrified routes from Paddington, this gives advantages in terms of operation, maintenance and staff utilisation and training.

I suspect too, that GWR have the depot space and sidings, to accommodate all the Class 387 trains they need.

Increasing Fleet Size

There are two published plans y to increase rail services to Heathrow.

  • Heathrow Southern Railway would like to extend Heathrow Express to Woking and ultimately to Basingstoke and Guildford.
  • Western access to Heathrow could also be a route for Heathrow Express to perhaps Reading and Oxford.

In the future there could be other services.

  • Developments could mean that a Heathrow-Gatwick service could be possible and worthwhile.
  • There is speculation in the media, about a direct service between Heathrow and Southampton.

Any expansion of services would probably need more trains.

If they need more Class 387 trains in the future, there are two operators, who have small fleets of Class 387 trains.

Some of these might become available, as the operators consolidate and update their fleets.

Acquiring more Class 332 trains could be problematical.

The Class 387 trains route, means that Heathrow Express will remain a  fleet of identical trains.

Operation On Routes With Third Rail Electrification

Any expansion of Heathrow Express to the Western side of Terminal 5 could connect to the extensive network of third-rail electrification.

For this reason, a Heathrow Express fleet without the capability to use third-rail electrification, would be limited in its market.

The Class 387 trains have been designed as dual voltage units and could work on third-rail networks by adding third-rail shoes.

Can Class 332 trains work on third-rail routes?

Operating Speed

The Class 387 trains are also 110 mph trains, whereas the operating speed of the Class 332 trains is 100 mph.

The faster operating speed must help operation on the busy fast lines to and from Paddington, where the Class 800 trains are 125 mph capable.

Train Length Issues

Consider.

  • The current Class 332 trains, run as nine-car trains, consisting of one four-car and one five-car trainset.
  • Class 387 trains are basically a four-car trainset, which can run as four, eight or twelve-car trains.
  • To complicate matters, Crossrail, which will use the same platforms at Heathrow are planning to nine-car Class 345 trains, but these could be lengthened to ten or even eleven cars.

These probably cause no problems with the current service, as running eight-car Class 387 trains would probably provide enough capacity.

Would a twelve-car Class 387 train need some platforms to be lengthened?

A four-car Class 387 unit is 80.77 metres long, so a twelve-car train would be 243 metres long.

This compares with the following.

  • Heathrow Express Class 332 – Nine cars – 206 metres.
  • Crossrail Class 345 – Nine cars – 205 metres
  • High Speed Train running with eight carriages – 220 metres
  • Inter-City 225 running with nine carriages – 246 metres
  • Two five-car Class 444 trains running togeyther – 230 metres
  • Two five-car Class 800 trains running together – 260 metres

A twelve-car Class 387 train is long, but not wildly out of line.

As the pairs of Class 800 trains work into Paddington,, I suspect twelve-car Class 387 trains can do the same.

If there is a problem, it will be in the Hathrow stations.

Alternatively, could some extra cars be built by Bombardier to create five-car trains, that would work as ten-car units, which would be around two hundred metres long?

Joining And Splitting Of Trains

Could Heathrow Express benefit from trains with the ability to split and join?

When there are more than one route to the West from Terminal 5, there may be advantages for trains to split and join in Terminal 5 station, to serve more than one destination to the West of the airport.

This picture was taken, as I watched two Class 387 trains joining together.

Note the driver in the cab on the right, controlling the process.

There is also a gangway between the two Class 387 trains, which the Class 332 trains don’t have.

Updating The Trains

The production of Class 387 trains has only just finished at Derby, but the Class 332 trains were built twenty years ago.

So could it be, that creating a modern fleet with all the features needed is easier with the later trains?

Suitability For Use With Heathrow Southern Railway Proposal

There are various issues here.

These concern fleet size and capacity

  • Any extensions to the South and West will need more trains.
  • If express services between Basingstoke, Guildford and Woking, and Paddington via Heathrow are successful, this could lead to calls for more services and other destinations, which could need more trains.
  • If five-car units were needed, then Bombardier could probably oblige.
  • There may be a need to lengthen platforms at the Heathrow stations.

Expanding a Class 387 train fleet would be easier.

There are also line speed issues.

  • What would be the design operating speed of Heathrow Southern Railway’s tracks alongside the M25? – 90, 100 or even 125 mph!
  • Could the operating speed of the Chertsey Branch Line be increased to the same speed, as there are only two stations; Chertsey and Addlestone?

The 110 mph maximum speed of a Class 387 could be a serious advantage, as speed sells!

How Many Trains Would Need To Be Converted?

Currently, there are fourteen Class 332 trains working Heathrow Express services.

They usually work in pairs, so there are seven trains.

If these are replaced by twelve-car Class 387 formations, that means up to twenty-one trains will be needed for the airport services from their current fleet of forty-five trains.

Eight-car formations would need fourteen trains.

Conclusion

It appears to me, that it is good decision to change the fleet for Class 387 trains.

Overall Conclusion

It’s all coming together for Heathrow Southern Railway.

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 14 Comments

MTR Vying To Join Heathrow Southern Rail Bid

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in New Civil Engineer.

The title gives you all you need, but consider these facts about MTR.

  • MTR is a Hong Kong company with a revene of about £4 billion per year, which is about the same size as the Stagecoach Group.
  • MTR will be running Crossrail for Transport for London.
  • MTR in partnership with First Group, are running South Western Railway.

In addition, FirstGroup are running Great Western Railway.

So it could seem logical for MTR to be included in the consortium behind Heathrow Southern Railway, as they could have a lot of influence on the consortium’s policies.

In an argument about train paths or stations, MTR or their partner; First Group, will be involved on both sides.

The problem is Heathrow Airport and their ownership of Heathrow Express, especially if it is extended deep into South Western Railway territory at Basingstoke, Guildford or Working.

This is said on the Heathrow Southern Railway web site.

Whether or not a third runway is built, many more passengers and airport workers need to be accessing Heathrow by train. The Government’s recent M25 South West Quadrant Study ruled out widening the motorway. HSR provides the alternative, switching traffic from the roads and contributing to improving local air quality. We estimate that HSR will reduce use of this section of the M25 by over three million car trips a year.

Heathrow might be a greedy bully, but they probably need a superb rail service more, than they need to own Heathrow Express.

MTR and AECOM, who is a large partner in Heathrow Southern Railway partner, are big enough to stand up to anybody.

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Traffic Between Windsor And Staines After The Building Of Heathrow Southern Railway

Currently, Windsor and Eton Riverside station has a two train per hour (tph) service to Waterloo, which calls at Staines.

These are also the only trains on the Staines-Windsor Line.

So if, there are four tph on a Crossrail service from Heathrow to Staines, as  I talked about in Heathrow Southern Railway’s Plans For Staines, then that only raises the frequency of the  trains on the Southern part of the Staines-Windsor Line to six tph.

In his article about the Heathrow Southern Railway in the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, Chris Stokes says this.

With the addition of a chord at Staines, it would also be potentially possible to operate a half-hourly Weybridge – Virginia Water – Egham – Terminal 5 service, providing a further attractive local link to Heathrow.

If this service were to be added, that only raises the frequency to eight tph.

I suspect that if modern signalling techniques were applied, that the capacity of this route would be above this frequency.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Station

I doubt there will be any problems of capacity at Heathrow Terminal 5 station.

The station has been built with two Piccadilly Line and four heavy rail platforms.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr, shows the platform layout.

Note.

  1. It would appear there are only two heavy rail platforms in use.
  2. Through trains would use these currently in use platforms.
  3. The two spare platforms could be arranged, so that they could handle a terminating train from either direction.
  4. The terminating platforms can probably handle four tph or even six tph.
  5. The through platforms can handle well over ten tph, with the right signalling.

Someone seems to have got the design right.

The Future Of Heathrow Express

In his Modern Railways article, Chris Stokes says this about services from Woking to Heathrow.

We have assumed half-hourly services from Basingstoke and Guildford to Heathrow and Paddington, providing a 15-minute frequency from Woking, with stops at Farnborough Main (Basingstoke services), Working, Terminal 5, Terminal 2 and 3 and Old Oak Common.

He also says that this service could take over the Heathrow Express paths and it would use the through platforms at Heathrow Terminal 5 station.

This arrangement has several advantages.

  • Heathrow Express doesn’t terminate in the tunnels under Terminal 5.
  • No new train paths between Heathrow and Paddington are required
  • Heathrow Express gets  new destinations without any expensive new infrastructure.

But it would appear that Heathrow Express may have a future.

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment